In 2007, several major outbreaks of food-borne illness prompted the FDA to come up with a new strategy for intercepting contaminated foods. In an effort to step up food safety surveillance, the agency developed a website where potentially hazardous foods could be immediately reported. The Reportable Food Registry site launched in September of 2009, requiring manufacturers, processors, packers and distributors to report any contaminated food, animal feed and per food that could pose a health threat.
Although it is too soon to compare the effectiveness of the site to prior years, the site appears to have positive results. Between the site’s launch in 2009 and March 2010, 125 reports were filed by both domestic and foreign sources. Once report resulted in the recall of hydrolyzed vegetable protein that had been contaminated with salmonella. The product is a flavor enhancer that is used in hundreds of foods like dressings and dips. The recall prevented any incidents of illness.
Another recall sparked by a report to the FDA site was of products containing sulfites not listed as ingredients on the package. Sulfites are a potential allergen, which can lead to severe or life-threatening reactions.
“The definitive evidence of the system’s value will come when we can compare year-to-year trends in food-borne illness and clearly see the curve heading down,” said Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine.